House on Mango Street

Question 1

Why does Esperanza struggle with being content on Mango Street and being thankful for what she has? Why is she conflicted all the time?

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This new house on Mango street is the first the family has owned. The narrator observes the benefits of having a home of one's own, namely the absence of rent, sharing with neighbors, or minding the landlord. However, she is quick to point out that "it's not the house we thought we'd get." The house on Mango street is far away from her old neighborhood; it was bought with haste and necessity when the family's old landlord refused to repair the water pipes. Thus, the narrator expresses her dissatisfaction that her parents promise to one day move into a real house was not fulfilled in on Mango Street.

The narrator ironically contrasts she and her parents' dream with harsh reality. The dream house would be theirs permanently, and would boast running water, working pipes, real stairs "like the houses on T.V.", a basement and enough washrooms to accommodate the large family. The yard was also worthy of Papa's lottery ticket and Mama's bedtime stories: the traditional white exterior and a big, unfenced yard with trees. What the narrator sees is contrary to everything her parents said; her house is tiny, crumbling, and without a yard.

The description of this ramshackle dwelling compels the narrator to reflect upon the shame of her life of poverty. She recounts a tale of being asked to identify her house when a nun from her school passed by and interrupted her play. The mortification she felt from having to point to the apartment over a "laundromat" with peeling paint and barred windows and admit she lived there marks a turning point for the narrator. She knows that one day, she must have a real house. This introduces an important textual theme: the narrator's desire to find a physical and emotional space of her own.

The chapter ends with the narrator's denial that the house on Mango Street was the dream house, and her doubts in her parents' promises of a better home in the future. Her concluding sentence, "But I know how these things go," lets the reader know that, to the narrator, a house of her own must be forged independently. Thus, this novel is as much about finding a place as it is about finding ones self.